Poor response to power trust plan

CATHIE BELL
Last updated 11:01 11/02/2014

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Moving to a 10 per cent threshold for future ownership reviews might be too high a bar, submitters to the Marlborough Electric Power Trust's special meeting say.

The trust held a special meeting in Blenheim yesterday to hear submissions on changes the trustees want to make to the trust's deed. The main change is to drop the clause requiring the trust to review its ownership every five years.

Trust chairman Tim Smit said the requirement cost about $50,000 the last time it was done in 2009, and the results were "overwhelmingly" that people wanted the trust to continue to own all Marlborough Lines shares on behalf of the community, the power users of Marlborough.

Instead, the trust proposes that ownership reviews only be held when the trustees called for them or when 10 per cent of power users in Marlborough called for one.

While about 25,000 people were eligible to make submissions on the proposed changes, only three did.

Those three talked to a special public meeting held by the trust yesterday which only they, four of the six trustees, and two trust administration staff attended.

John Brett, Sister Elizabeth Fulton and Ken Lawrence submitted against the changes proposed.

Mr Brett and Sister Elizabeth felt the 10 per cent threshold of consumers to force an ownership review was too high. Mr Lawrence opposed the changes in their entirety.

Mr Brett said he accepted the rationale for dropping the automatic ownership review, but he did not agree with the 10 per cent quota before consumers could force a review. "It is impossible to go along such a large area to get 10 per cent of the consumers for a review. 10 per cent is a lot in Marlborough."

He cited community apathy as a barrier, saying half a per cent was more likely.

Sister Elizabeth agreed, and she and Mr Brett suggested 5 per cent might be more reasonable.

Mr Brett had other questions and comments about the trust's performance and perceived lack of transparency, but Mr Smit said yesterday's meeting was not the forum to air them.

He invited Mr Brett to write to him as chairman of the trust.

Mr Brett said he would take that offer up.

Mr Lawrence said he opposed the trust's changes. He said he had 16,000 signatories that wanted the trust to become a community co-operative company.

Mr Smit said the changes would enable Mr Lawrence to force an ownership review to make that change happen.

"You'll have no trouble getting 2500 then, if you have those 16,000 behind you. You won't have to wait five years for the review ... It is giving power to the community. You can put your money where your mouth is."

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Mr Smit said the next step would be for the trustees to consider the submissions at another meeting, which would also be public.

The decisions they made would come into force from then.

- The Marlborough Express

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